Ronald Asquith's reply (Letters, May 9) about Occidental Petroleum Corp.'s meatpacking subsidiary, IBP, is wrong! He may be the vice president of employee relations in Los Angeles, but I worked at the Dakota City, Neb., plant for almost two years. I have since moved away because of the lockout by management in December, 1986.
Asquith stated that ". . . a substantial number of strikers having returned to work, having accepted IBP's wage package . . ." He did not mention that the reason they returned to work. The reason they returned was they were about to lose their cars or homes. It is very difficult to live on $40 to $50 a week during the winter here. Also not mentioned was the fact that the members of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 222 twice voted to reject the contract proposal by 98% to 2%. After the first vote was taken, the members agreed to come back to work under the contract offered by IBP until another one could be negotiated.
He mentioned the floors in the meat-processing area must be kept clean. I worked for six weeks standing in a quarter-inch of water for eight hours trying to do what the job required. Many times I did complain about the situation, and also nearly fell down. One year earlier, the same thing was happening at the line next to mine, and there someone did fall down and hurt his back. The solution to that problem was more rock salt was needed on the floor. Of course, that is providing there is enough to put down on the floor.
Asquith addresses the cold working conditions with the statement ". . . more than 97% work in temperatures of 50 degrees or higher." The thermometer 10 feet from where I worked was constantly between 40 and 48 degrees, which was in the processing area. Very rarely would the temperature go above 50.
Asquith claims that the average length of employment is five years. I find that hard to believe, since three of the five people hired the same day I was quit within the first month. I have talked to other people hired after I was and they tell of similar levels of turnover. In less than two years I was about halfway up the seniority list, with a plant population of about 2,800.
Finally, maybe Asquith should work in the plant he claims to know so much about, and then he can talk from experience, and not from sitting at a desk 1,800 miles away. If he wants to work next to me on the production line, I will cross the union picket line.